The recent confrontation in our capitol between high-schoolers from a male-only Catholic school in Kentucky and an American-Indian has drawn national attention, much of it due to a YouTube video that has gone viral. The focus of the media has been to disparage the grinning young man, followed by approval and vindication. Additional video clips seemed to prove that the young man’s intended to calm the potentially volatile situation. Others, chose to disgrace the older native American, arguing that he embellished his military service and that he sought, as he repeatedly has, public exposure, which he got. Many thought that a meeting of the two sides (around a coffee table, I would imagine) would diffuse the situation and miraculously achieve the kumbaya moment.
The end was that it is better to forget about the non-chilling incident. Think of it as boys caught smoking in the bathroom. Boys will be boys and let’s diffuse the petty discretion. No harm, no foul. After all, it wasn’t as if the boys raised their fists in the air or gave the man a one-finger salute.
But the real issues remain. Seemingly everyone wants to avoid the concern: Catholics (like all religious devotees) are going to act as Catholics. Their actions are predictable and justified. We are programmed by parents, teachers, communal leaders, and our institutions to behave in a specific manner. Acting differently is not only not expected but is to be defiant of the strictures and dogmas members of the faith are required to represent at all times. Religious activities and proclivities are supposed to be tolerated in a country that is understanding of minorities, even if they themselves are less so of others, even if those they oppose are the majority. That is not to say that all Catholics at all times behave as if they are hypnotized zombies or are arrogant and fanatical. But all too often they are.
Here are but a few of the lessons (in alphabetical order) that should have been reinforced by the incident.
Religious people tend to be overwhelmingly conservative. If you want to find students who will willingly, publicly and proudly wear a MAGA hat, distribute them in a Catholic school, or in any parochial school.
Religious people tend to see the world as a “us vs. them“ world. The native American was an outsider and, because religion thrives in this pluralistic society, at the most, he should be tolerated. But he could - it is assumed that he is a non-Catholic - never be one of them.
The high-school group was bused in for an anti-abortion rally. Never mind that the majority of the Western world has a more liberal policy than do Catholics or that women may have an opposing view on this subject than most Catholics. These young men came to Washington to preach the Gospel. In true Christian tradition, their dogma that life begins at inception is right, everyone else is wrong.
There are only boys surrounding the native Indian. Much like the demonstrations that take place in Islamic countries, there are no women in the digitized pictures. Segregation of the sexes must be observed unceremoniously and scrupulously.
Those who have viewed the incident expect a level of tolerance that is not in the pedagogy of the school or the teachings of the Church. Why do we expect a different outcome than the one that was demonstrated? Why should there be a need to apologize, punish the boys or seek retribution for being what the Church claims to be? Atheist should be surprised only if the outcome was any different.